We were given an advent calendar a couple of years ago. In years past, I have filled it with sweets and treats. This year I decided to do something a little different. Behind each door I put in a slip of paper that I've typed up a verse of the Christmas story. And then I have included a task or a treat that would connect to that part of the story. For example, for the verses about Mary and Joseph having to go to Bethlehem to be taxed, I gave them each a dollar explaining that whatever they bought with it, they would need to consider the tax that would be included. If they chose to use it on a vending machine, they would have to pay Mommy and Daddy the tax amount on the item. When I typed up the verse about the shepherds telling everyone they knew, I put a gospel tract inside the doors and asked them to hand it to somebody that needed to hear about Jesus this week. Of course there has been a little bit of grumbling that there has not been a treat behind each door, but I have explained to them that Christmas is about Christ. All this other stuff is fun and exciting, but Christ's birth is the reason for the celebration.
|Mary Kept These Things in Her Heart--Taken from Standard Bible Story Readers, Book One|
By Lillie A. Faris, Illustrated by O. A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1925
Physically, she would have been completely depleted. Of course, it was God coming into the world, maybe she had the easiest labor on record. If it was, she would be in for a real surprise when she gave birth to her future children. Just another way for those brothers and sisters to be compared to their perfect big brother. God knew Mary's heart. He knew how she would handle the pressure of being ridiculed through the whole pregnancy. He knew that she would not be thinking about herself when the time came for the baby to be born. He knew that she had a servant's heart, that she was willing to do what was necessary to see God's plan carried out. Many faiths give too much credence to Mary. Some faiths don't give her enough. This was a remarkable woman. She really exemplifies selflessness. The trials of scorn and scoffing when people first learned she was pregnant. The fear of losing the man she loved, because how was he supposed to understand this? Traveling on a donkey while probably having contractions, but being willing to finish the journey because God had a particular place in mind when His Son would be born. She had no idea that particular place would be in a stable. And now a sleepless night, smiling and chatting with countless people. Maybe she yawned here and there, it could hardly be helped, but sharing her Child with the world, remembering that this was the One so many had been waiting for their entire lives. Mary's story started long before an angel's visit. God was working in this young lady for years before that, and she must have displayed a surrendered heart time and time again for God to select her for this special privilege. She had no idea the full extent of what she was surrendering to, when she agreed to God's plan. But she bore it all with such grace and example. If we could have a smidgen of the fortitude and willingness that was in that young lady's heart, we would get so much more accomplished for the Kingdom.
It's hard to give ourselves to everything God wants us to do. It is emotionally and physically exhausting sometimes. Just yesterday, our pastor reiterated that the ministry is not about us. Mary really got that. Was it inconvenient to give birth in a stable? Absolutely. Was it a nuisance to have people coming by throughout the night? I think it must have been. But the whole reason she said yes to God was for this moment. And maybe this moment wasn't exactly what she had envisioned, but she knew it was not about her. It was about this new life she had just brought into the world. Could God have selected me if I were living during that time? Highly unlikely. Mary did not have any supernatural powers that allowed her to have a more willing heart than mine. She just understood that some of the most important things in life, are the hardest. And she was willing to put up with some inconvenience to see God's plan through. If I gripe about not getting a good night's rest, I obviously still don't get it. And when I see Mary's attitude, I see I still have a lot of work to do on my own.